Vonnegut and (Re)imagined Spaces (Panel)


American

Nicole Lowman (SUNY University at Buffalo)

Many authors use real-life experiences as a foundation for their fiction, while others use highly imaginative spaces to create new worlds that still make room for personal reflection and cultural critique. Kurt Vonnegut does both and often in the same piece. Vonnegut not only sets his fiction in places that had an important impact on his life--for example, Dresden and Schenectady (in the form of Ilium)--but he also creates his own worlds like Tralfamadore, integrating the three into Slaughterhouse Five. One wonders which elements of these locations are accurate according to Vonnegut's memory, which are fictionalized to meet a particular end, and how we (or he) can really tell the difference.

Vonnegut is not the only twentieth-century American author to play with setting and world-making. Authors like Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner use their war experiences or their upbringing as inspirations for their work, and this, too, can be seen in their reappropriation of place. Science fiction writers like Philip K. Dick reimagine earth in order to explore cultural and political themes, while others imagine their own worlds to do the same. How does Vonnegut align with these techniques or apply them in his own unique way?

Presentations in this session will consider the function of setting in Vonnegut's work---space, place, and/or world--and the ways in which the location's "realness," "fictionalization," and/or "alterations" affect and shape the characters, plot trajectory, or authorial relation to the text.

Presentations might consider:
*Vonnegut's renaming of places and how he reimagines them (e.g. Midland City, Ilium)
*Vonnegut's imaginary locations (e.g. San Lorenzo, Tralfamadore)
*Vonnegut's use of "real" locations (e.g. Dresden, Galápagos)
*Comparisons of Vonnegut's spaces, real, imagined or otherwise rethoughtComparisons between
*Vonnegut's Midland City/Ilium and Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha CountyHemingway's Italy/Switzerland in A Farewell to Arms and Vonnegut's Dresden in Slaughterhouse Five
*Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five
*Vonnegut's America and Philip K. Dick's America
*Other interpretations of Vonnegut's (re)imagined spaces as the focus of the presentation or in discussion with the works of other twentieth-century American authors

Kurt Vonnegut not only sets his fiction in places that had an important impact on his life--for example, Dresden and Schenectady (in the form of Ilium)--but he also creates his own worlds like Tralfamadore, integrating the three into Slaughterhouse Five. Presentations in this session will consider the function of setting in Vonnegut's work---space, place, and/or world--and the ways in which the location's "realness," "fictionalization," and/or "alterations" affect and shape the characters, plot trajectory, or authorial relation to the text. Presentations might also interpret Vonnegut's (re)imagined spaces in discussion with the works of other 20th-century American authors. This session is sponsored by the Kurt Vonnegut Society.